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Can I Eat Deli Meat & Cheese When Pregnant?

written by: TheresaHalvorsen • edited by: Rhonda Callow • updated: 10/5/2010

Pregnant women are at a higher risk of getting an infection called listeriosis which can be in some deli meat and cheeses. A listeriosis infection can cause illness, miscarriage and even stillbirth. Find out how to eat deli meat during pregnancy and if cheeses such as feta cheese are safe.

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    Why Worry about Listeriosis during Pregnancy?

    Listeriosis is a common bacteria that doesn't affect usually adults with healthy immune systems. But a pregnant woman's immune system is a little weak, so she and her baby can get a serious listeriosis infection. Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, chills and an upset stomach--many mistake it for the flu. It fetuses, it can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and sepsis (all over body infection). A listeriosis infection in pregnancy is extremely serious and can mean death for you and/or your baby.

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    Avoid Unpasteurized Foods

    Due to the risk of listeriosis, it's very important pregnant women avoid unpasteurized foods. This means you need to avoid many soft cheeses including feta cheese, brie, queso blanco, queso fresca, blue cheese veined, panela and other unpasteurized cheeses. You should also avoid smoked seafood such as lox. Pregnant women also need to avoid refrigerated meat spreads (like pate), Never drink raw or unpasteurized milks during pregnancy.

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    Clean up Spills

    Since it's possible for listeriosis to live in raw foods, it's doubly important pregnant women keep their cooking area clean. Wipe up any and all spills quickly. Wash your hands when handling raw foods and before eating. Consider having a separate cutting board for meats and vegetables. Some people will even prepare raw meats and vegetables in different locations in their kitchens. No matter what you do, make sure you clean up thoroughly after preparing raw meats.

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    Cook Meats Throughly

    Unfortunately, during pregnancy you can't eat raw or rare meat. Listeriosis lives in many raw foods, including meat. You have to cook your meat to well done (160-165 degrees F) and avoid any and all raw fish (including sushi). You also have to heat deli meat and hot dogs to steaming. If you get sandwiches made for you, simply ask the deli worker to microwave your deli meat for a few seconds before putting it on your sandwich.

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    Read Labels

    It may surprise you to find out that some juices and even some sprouts are unpasteurized. Learn to read the labels. It should say on the front of packaging whether a product has undergone pasteurization. If you can't find the information on the front of the product, check the ingredients list. If you're still uncertain whether something is safe to eat, check in with your care provider before ingesting it.

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    Store your Food Correctly

    Make sure you're not leaving raw food out on the counter for several hours and then putting it back into the refrigerator. This can lead to bacterial multiplication. In addition, your refrigerator should be at 40 degrees F or lower. If you do thaw food, use it quickly and never refreeze it for later. if you have a power outage you'll need to throw out any defrosted foods you haven't used within 24 hours.